Films in May 2022

A pretty quiet month for film watching, although I did make it to the cinema for TWO multiverse films. The excellent Doctor Strange and the Multiverse (reviewed here) and the disappointing Everything, Everywhere, All at Once (reviewed here).

All the Old Knives
This is a fairly quiet thriller, but it really worked for me. It plays out mostly in two timelines – in the past a group of CIA agents reacting to a terrorist incident, and a present day investigation into what happened. The multiple timelines were well juggled, gradually building up the different threads of the incident in the past, different points of view and substories and then tying it all together in the future to get to the ‘answer’ of what happened. Thandiwe Newton and Chris Pine are excellent, very understated performances that make even the simple scenes of them having dinner in a restaurant sizzle with tension. 8 / 10

The Ice King
I had heard of the British Ice Skater John Curry, I knew he was an Olympic gold medalist (one of only a dozen) but that was it. The documentary focusses on how he revolutionized men’s figure skating, integrating art into the sport and creating something beautiful and impressive. He was also one of the first out gay athletes and the documentary is also candid about his struggles with depression and drugs. The film is made of a combination of present day interviews and archive footage which is well combined, and while it’s wonderful there are so many interviews with Curry, and he’s very frank in them, it’s a shame there isn’t better footage of the stunning works of art he created on the ice. 8 / 10

The Magnificent Ambersons
I didn’t actually know when I put this on that it was an Orson Welles film, his follow up to Citizen Kane and I don’t think I would have connected the two if not for the credits. The subject matter is similar, telling the story of a quintessential American family, but it just doesn’t quite have the shine that Citizen Kane did. Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, but after the opening potted history of the family, everything just felt a bit flat and disconnected, more like things were just bumbling from point to point than a smooth narrative of a great story. I’m not sure that the actors really understood either, I could never get a handle on what their motivations and feelings were so struggled to have any engagement at all. 5 / 10

Muriel’s Wedding
I was looking for a easy going comedy, and I spotted Muriel’s Wedding on Amazon Prime and remembered it as feel-good comedy with a bit of ABBA thrown in. The start and end match that, but the middle is incredibly bleak – there’s suicide, depression, cancer and some pretty serious mental health issues going on. It’s all done with the kind of irreverent Aussie style that seems to make it a bit lighter, but at heart, it’s really a bit bleak. It’s not BAD, not at all, but it isn’t frothy fun and disconnect between style and subject is either genius or mis-judged and I’m not sure which. There is some ABBA though. 6 / 10

Trolls 2: World Tour
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the first trolls film, and I’m surprised at how much less I enjoyed the second one. It just didn’t ping for me in the same way as the first. It just felt a bit untidy, a bit forced, and the music less catchy. The idea of having different types of trolls compared to just the ‘pop trolls’ overcomplicated everything – the music, the visuals and the character list. The first one overwhelmed in a good way that made me feel immersed in a positive, happy experience. This one overwhelmed and left me underwhelmed. 5 / 10

Fantastic Mr Fox
I liked this a lot more the first time than the second. I think it was because on the first viewing I was expecting a children’s film, rather than what I now know as a Wes Anderson film. My first review commented on how fast, intricate, enjoyable and clever it was. But on the second viewing I found the film, and the main character, just too too smug and annoying. I didn’t like the way the animals were simultaneously anthropomorphized but retained key animal features (eg showing teetch), and I really didn’t get on with the casting where I couldn’t settle into the characters, too aware that they were George Clooney, Bill Murray et al. It looked beautiful, the animation and the style really something, but I just didn’t get on with it. 6 / 10

Gosford Park
A great film that really benefits from multiple viewings. There’s about 30 different characters to try and track and most of the first viewing is spent trying to work out who’s who and how they relate to each other. However they are all well developed and have their own stories to tell, with overlapping dialogue and multiple things happening in every scene. It’s definitely worth giving it a chance as it is a truly superb film with so many great performances and different layers to it. This is one of my top picks for a sofa day and I watch it almost annually and I never fail to be entertained and gripped. 9 / 10

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